“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack’ He said. “Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come and follow me.” Mark 10:21
In Mark 10:17-22, a wealthy, deeply religious man asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Though the man has kept the commandments of God since he was a boy, he learns from Jesus that there is one thing he lacks. Jesus tells the man what he must do, but the man is unwilling to give up his wealth and he walks away sad.
I recall a time in 2011 when I realized that after nearly 20 years of being a Christian, something was surely lacking. My family was weighted down with health challenges, emotional burdens and busy schedules. Church had become a Sunday habit and relationships with other Christians seemed shallow and contrived. I often felt sad and longed for inspiration. I realized that my husband was spiritually hurting too. We both knew that our family’s salvation was in jeopardy and something needed to be done. The net result of our effort to deal with what was lacking was that we had to leave our church in San Francisco and eventually return to plant a new church. We are often asked why we made these decisions. This account will give you a glimpse into the reasons for the choices that we made for God’s honor.
I was baptized in the San Francisco Church of Christ over twenty years ago. Back then it was part of the International Churches of Christ (ICOC). When I think back to the early days, I have fond memories of life-changing talks, Bible studies that built my faith, and the many opportunities to help people to learn and apply the Bible to their lives. I even had the opportunity to go out on a mission team. The San Francisco Church of Christ is long gone, and the church that sprouted up in its place is the one my husband and I were a part of for over a decade. I have no accounts of anyone treating me harshly or unjustly during my time as a member of that church. In fact, as far as churches go, anyone surfing “the Net” for a church with great programs and friendly people would be pleased to discover it. So why did we leave? The bottom line is that there was something lacking. There are many passages in the New Testament that describe this condition:
This is what Jesus said to the church in Ephesus: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance… You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you…”Revelations 2:2-4
This is what Jesus said to the church in Pergamum, “I know where you live – where Satan has his thrown. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me… Nevertheless, I have a few things against you…”Revelations 2:13-14
This is what Jesus said to the church in Thyatira, “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you…”Revelations 2:18-20
We can often deceive ourselves into thinking we are doing many good things, and yet in the eyes of God we are still lacking something and he would say “…yet I have this against you”. At times like this you have to do something. You can’t just sit back and wait. When I learned that the City of Angels International Christian Church (CAICC) was sending a mission team to plant a new church in San Francisco, the time for a decision had come. The CAICC was led by the very same leaders, Kip and Elena McKean, who at one time oversaw the International Churches of Christ. I was surprised by the news and the burning question on my heart was, “Why plant a ‘new church?’” In Proverbs 4:7, the Bible says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” So in the midst of my prayers and fasting, God moved my husband’s and my hearts to go to Los Angeles to visit the City of Angels International Christian Church. That visit was the most life changing 24 hours of our lives! I wish I could explain our experience, but that would be like trying to tell you what milk tastes like. There are some things that cannot be explained… only experienced! I believe that is part of God’s plan.
When we arrived at the CAICC church service and heard the singing and looked into the eyes of the people sitting around us, we knew that we had found what was lacking. It was a moment of clarity for us. My husband decided on the spot to move our family to Los Angeles. I was thrilled to see the Spirit moving so quickly and powerfully. We both knew that we needed to heed the instruction, “To continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”Philippians 2:12 In two weeks, we rented out our home, packed up our belongings and moved to LA to become part of the City of Angeles International Christian Church.
Our time with the church in Los Angeles was spiritually refreshing and inspiring. I can hardly explain the joy that fills my heart when I think of the all the blessings we received. Deep friendships were built quickly. Our missionary mindset was revived. The Holy Spirt moved our hearts and gave us a profound sense of purpose. God prepared us to go back into the spiritual battle of saving souls.
Plans to plant the San Francisco Bay International Christian Church (SFBICC) were in play long before we had moved to Los Angeles. We couldn’t deny that it was a perfect opportunity for us. We envisioned God’s new movement growing in leaps and bounds with the help of the Christians already living in San Francisco. We were excited about being part of a worldwide movement of churches with a renewed dream to spread the gospel to every nation in our generation. First Principles would once again equip us to “solidify, unify and multiply.” The leader who had once helped us to grow to over four hundred congregations worldwide had changed. He had been tested, disciplined and humbled. His passion to see a lost world saved in our generation had reached new heights and yet his deep understanding of the need for mercy and grace seasoned every conversation. Wouldn’t every sold-out disciple of Christ be drawn to this new church?
After 10 months of spiritual revival, we returned to San Francisco refreshed and restored. God allowed our faith to be tested immediately. We were quickly sobered by the reality that our friends from our old church were not inspired nor eager to start over. Perhaps we were idealistic or naïve in our thinking. Sadly, many friends in that church no longer associate with us. We often feel the pain of loss and rejection, and yet we joyfully carry that burden as we work hard to build the San Francisco Bay International Christian Church.
There is something to be said about Tony Bennett’s song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. I was physically and spiritually born in this great city, and I came back because my heart is in San Francisco. Though the name of the church has changed from San Francisco Church of Christ to San Francisco Bay International Christian Church, this church is the one in which I was baptized. My husband and I are called to sacrifice daily to help others; our hearts are constantly being kneaded like dough. Our faith is being tested and refined with every call to action. We have worked harder in these three years than we did in the last decade. My husband and I are studying the Bible with men and women, and we are seeing souls being saved. What a joy it is for us to have the honor of serving the church as shepherds. Our lives are full and purpose driven lives because we are aligned with Matthew 28:18-20. We are not a tiny church on the corner. We are part of a worldwide movement of churches around the world. We have a plan and God is working powerfully through men and women who dream.
We love watching God’s kingdom grow through the Crown of Thorns project. There are now churches in Santiago, London, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Paris, Sydney, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, Eugene, Gainesville, Hilo, Honolulu, Houston, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland, San Antonio, Syracuse and Washington DC, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego, Santa Barbara and YES, the city of my birth, San Francisco! And there will be many, many more! Together we have a common purpose, a common mission, a common leader and a common goal and that is for Jesus to be with us always as we make disciples to the very end of the age.
Without question, we know in the depth of our hearts when something is lacking. Why we chose to ignore it is puzzling, but it is what we do sometimes. Seeking God and living by faith is what we are called to do, not once, but every day of our lives. Every disciple of Christ must be bent on defeating Satan’s schemes to tear down our faith. Hebrews 11:6, teaches us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” When I think about that “one thing that is lacking,” I pray for God to give me insight and to call me back to Him.
I also pray for those disciples who, like me, are aware that something is lacking. I know that God’s desire is to gather the remnant of His holy nation exiled and enslaved in foreign lands. He tells us in Isaiah 43:4-7, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.”
My husband and I are excited to be a part of God’s dream in San Francisco to gather the remnant of our former fellowship. We know there are many disciples, just like us, who have grown weak in their faith and have lost the vision God has for their lives. Some are still part of a church fellowship while others no longer attend. We want to be a source of hope and encouragement for our brothers and sisters by sharing all that our loving Father has done for us. By God’s grace, we are humbled and grateful for the opportunity to help others see what we see.
When John the Baptist doubted, he sent two disciples to Jesus who asked Him, “Are you the one?” Jesus could have simply said yes! However, instead He said, “Go back and report to John what you… SEE: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is preached to the poor.”Matthew 11:2-5 In short, report what you SEE!
If you have come to a point in your life where you realize, like we did, that something is lacking, then come and SEE what God is doing in the San Francisco International Christian Church! If you have you grown weary and have lost hope that God still has a plan for your life, come and SEE what God is doing in the San Francisco International Christian Church! If you no longer believe that the world can be evangelized in our generation, come and SEE what God is doing in the San Francisco International Christian Church!
“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:1-3
Like the captives brought back to Zion, we embrace God’s dream to SEE the world evangelized in our generation! God is doing great things among us and our hearts are filled with joy! Come and SEE what God is doing here in San Francisco… Just come and SEE!